Profit for few, or food for all in Africa? Abstract.

Feeding the World
Are GM Crops fit for Purpose? If not, then what?
12th November 2008
Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London
www.feedingtheworldconference.org

 

Profit for few, or food for all in Africa? GM Crops

Eric Kisiangani, Practical Action, Nairobi, Kenya. (Paper delivered by Katherine Pasteur, Practical Action, Rugby, UK)

Abstract

This paper argues that GM crop technology is not a solution to a hungry Kenya and Africa in general. Building on Practical Action’s work experiences with small-scale farmers in Kenya and Zimbabwe and drawing lessons from the failed “green revolution” in Africa the authors call into question the overall value of GM crops to Africa’s food security situation and to local farmers in particular.

With reference to cases of GM sweet potato and Bt maize in Kenya, the authors cite more effective crop protection alternatives that ought to be supported and promoted by anybody including those in the corporate sector who care about food security situation in Africa. But because there is no money to be made from such alternative solutions by corporations they are not often promoted by the corporate sector.

More space for critical reflection should be created to take into account the complexity of the African farming environment instead of advancing quick technology-fixes – the GM crops. What will the GM crops mean to farmer-based innovations under climate change? Small-scale agriculture is by its very nature a form of adaptation to climate change, which has been demonstrated over millennia by farmers saving and exchanging seed and growing a wide diversity of crops to manage risks.  

The authors submit that enduring agricultural approaches in Africa are those that require a much more complex approach, as farmers across Africa know only too well. As the Rockefeller Foundation has slowly come to understand: “The complexity of small-scale farmers’ decision-making can be startling.”  Efforts to promote GM crop technology are taking attention away from the more fundamental problems affecting African small-scale farmers.

 

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